This season Heinrich Haussler is on the hot seat. So maybe it’s symbolic that he’s down in Qatar, land of burning sun and hot winds and bored camels. Twisted Spoke is an amused fan of the Duel in the Desert, the Belgium of the Middle East, the Big Q.
Haussler may have done a very stupid thing when he left his place — or maybe he was pushed — in Garmin-Sharp. He really hadn’t delivered the goods for the Boulder-based team but he came close a few times in the Tour of California, the only sprinter even close to Peter Sagan. (He also nearly made the podium in Omloop — as in just out of loop.)
We thought Jonathan Vaughters, the Argyle Genius, was going to rejuvenate Haussler’s career. We figured the cooler, laid-back vibe, the good food and clever people would have him flying again. Like back in 2009 when he scored a Tour stage and took second in Milan San Remo and Flanders.
Haussler was a rising star back then. He had a snazzy euro tousled haircut and striking facial features and you couldn’t really tell if he was half Japanese or not.
Yup, the German-Australian was red hot and even now he’s still only 28. Plenty of time for redemption — not in that Lance-Oprah way — but you know, winning races, drinking champagne, fondling podium girls.
Haussler said goodbye to Garmin-Sharp and signed with the new Swiss Pro Conti outfit IAM. Like IAM going to get my career back on track, IAM going to make JV sorry, IAM gonna win a classic. Now, there’s a team name made for positive affirmations. (Although we keep thinking of IAMS, the dog food company — go Heinrich, fetch stage win.)
Now, transition years can be tough and we’ll note that both Bradley Wiggins and Thor Hushovd — to cite two recent examples — had lost years immediately after they left Garmin. Thor caught Cadel Evan’s Ethiopian bug and Bradley needed a year to learn how to deal with the pressure of being The Brit Who Will Win Tour.
So we’re keeping a close eye on Heinrich Haussler. There’s something shy and lovable or maybe odd and mysterious about him. Depends on if he’s smiling or not. In any case, we’re pulling for the guy.
Will Haussler be a Qatar hero of the Persian Gulf? Will Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani congratulate him on a win and hand him a ceremonial dagger and a lifetime supply of oil? Hard to say but let’s hope so.